Before the Death Match
After teleporting into the Treasury, the first thing Ainz saw was countless lights glittering in the air, like stars in the sky.
The ceiling was so high that one would have to strain to see its heights, and its walls were so broad that they exceeded the range of one’s vision. The vast room they defined was filled with dazzling treasures.
In the center of the room was a heaping pile of gold coins and gems, so immense that it resembled a mountain range. Even the amount which could be seen to be counted was but a tiny fraction of the actual sum. In addition, there were masterfully-made works of art buried in the mountain of gold.
A quick glance revealed a golden mug, a scepter encrusted with all manner of gemstones, a crystal pitcher, an animal pelt which emitted a platinum radiance, an exquisitely-woven tapestry made with thread-of-gold, a pearl-colored ocarina, a fan made of rainbow-colored feathers, a mask made from animal hide, and many, many more.
Needless to say, they were but the tip of the iceberg.
There were hundreds more such articles buried within that gigantic heap of riches. As his followers beheld this literal mountain of treasure, Ainz could hear whispered gasps of awe from them. It would seem the voices came from two people.
Ainz looked behind him, at the three women waiting for orders.
Albedo had shed her armor and changed back into her white dress. There was a look of genuine admiration on her beautiful face as she looked around her surroundings. A similar expression adorned the face of Yuri Alpha, the maid to whom he had given his ring upon returning to Nazarick.
Only one of them was unlike the previous two. That person did not gasp in awe, but instead watched Ainz in silence.
Her face was a work of sculpted beauty. Only one of her eyes — which radiated a cool glow like a cut emerald — was visible, the other being covered up by an eyepatch. Her strawberry-blonde hair gleamed as it reflected the starlight which shone from the ceiling.
She was a heteromorphic being, of the kind known as Automatons. Her name was CZ2128 Delta, or Shizu for short.
As a Pleiades Battle Maid, she was dressed similarly to Narberal and Yuri. However, the biggest difference in her outfit from the others was that all her accessories were done up in an urban camouflage pattern, while her skirt had a cute “1-yen” sticker on it. In addition, she had a firearm of some sort at her waist, attached to her belt like a sword.
Incidentally, that magic gun, the Automaton race, and Shizu’s job class of Gunner had all been added to the game after the large-scale update called “Valkyrie’s Downfall”.
Yuri adjusted her lensless black spectacle frames. She seemed unable to abide the mess around her, given her sense of duty as a maid. Then, she asked:
“Ainz-sama, may I ask why these treasures have not been tidied up? Even if there are protective spells in effect, this is hardly an ideal storage method. You have but to command us and we will immediately begin tidying—”
“Look closely around you one more time.”
Yuri looked around, taking about the time of a single breath, and then she apologized.
“My sincerest apologies. Please forgive my lack of insight.”
“Pay it no heed. However, the fact is that the items buried within the gold pieces are hardly valuable.”
The places where Ainz had looked and where Yuri’s eyes had followed were the reason for her apology. There were shelves everywhere, piled all the way up to the ceiling, and the treasures there were more eye-catching than the mountains of gold.
There was a wand socketed with bloodstones, a pair of hihiirokane gauntlets inlaid with garnets, a small silver ring adorned with black diamonds, an obsidian statuette carved in the shape of a dog, a purple amethyst dagger, a miniature altar with countless small white pearls embedded all over it, a peony made from some glass-like material which scattered light in all the colors of the rainbow, a rose blossom which had been masterfully carved from a star ruby, a tapestry which depicted a soaring black dragon, a crown of platinum which held an enormous diamond, golden censers that were encrusted in gemstones, a mated pair of a male and female lion statuettes, carved from ruby and sapphire respectively, cufflinks which looked like flames and which had fire opals set into them, an intricately-carved cigar case made of rosewood, a jacket made of some golden beast’s pelt, a dozen plates made of apoitakara, anklets decorated with gemstones of four colors, a grimoire whose cover was made of demantoids, a human-sized statue of a woman which had been carved from gold, a belt with imperial topazes sewn into its material, a chess set whose pieces were all topped in different gemstones, a statuette of a fairy carved from a single piece of emerald, a black cloak that was decorated with countless small gemstones, a drinking horn made from a unicorn’s horn, a golden dais that held a crystal ball, and so on.
This was but a fraction of the wonders therein.
In addition, there were many mirrors of blue topaz, red crystals that were the size of a man, a gigantic platinum statue of a warrior, a pillar covered in mysterious characters, as well as a gigantic alexandrite which one would need both arms to fully embrace.
These numberless treasures gave Yuri her answer; which was that there was simply no place to put them.
Albedo and Yuri answered Ainz in the affirmative. Only Shizu remained silent, merely nodding in acknowledgement.
Ainz cast [Mass Fly], and then the four of them took off.
It was then that they realized that a faint purple poisonous gas hung in the air.
Yuri looked around to find the source of the purple gas, but though she looked to the ceiling, the walls, and the corners, she could not pinpoint the source of the purple radiance.
Just as confusion bloomed on Yuri’s face, a monotonous voice answered her:
“...Yuri-nee. Powerful magic toxin in the air.”
Yuri’s surprised answer was met by a cold, inscrutable look. That look came from Shizu’s calm green eye, which was devoid of any emotion.
One would not be able to pick up any emotion from those eyes. Shizu had a beautiful face, but if one were to be ungenerous, one could call it an actor’s mask.
After all, Shizu was an automaton. She would not show any emotions — indeed, that was how she had been programmed.
“...Blood of Jormungandr?”
As Shizu named that most potent of poisons, Ainz replied:
“Mm, that’s correct. I didn’t tell you, but the air in the Treasury is toxic. Anyone without poison immunity or items granting it will die within three steps.”
“Would that be why you chose me — forgive me, why you chose the three of us to accompany you?”
Indeed it was.
Yuri — who was adjusting her glasses — was a Dullahan, while the stiff-faced Shizu was an Automaton. The two of them were heteromorphic beings who were immune to poison as part of their racial features.
Albedo was a demon and did not naturally possess a resistance to poisons, but she had another way to render herself immune to them.
“You’re right in the reason for which I brought you here… However, I brought Shizu for more than just that; she is also here for verification.”
Ainz and his entourage crossed the mountain range of gold with the [Mass Fly] spell, and then they came to the door on the other side.
No, was it right to call it a door? It was more of a bottomless black shadow in the shape of a door, affixed to a wall.
As they arrived before this painting-like door, Ainz fell into thought.
“This is the armory, so what is the password…”
“Ainz-sama, if there is an armory, does this mean that there are other treasures stored in other locations?”
...Eh? Does Albedo not know about the interior of the Treasury?
Ainz had no idea why Albedo would have such doubts. However, it was understandable why she would not know about such things. After all, the Treasury did not exist within the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick proper, but could only be reached via the use of the Ring of Ainz Ooal Gown. It was designed to be very difficult to infiltrate. Thus, it was only natural why Albedo — who had only received the ring ten days ago — would not know of such things.
He had many questions about what exactly the NPCs knew, but after thinking about it, Ainz dismissed those concerns as trivial, and answered her question.
“Ah, yes. I had a friend called Genjiro. He liked sorting things out neatly, so he should have arranged the items by their intended purpose.”
“Is he the Supreme Being who made our comrade Entoma?”
“Yes, that’s right, Yuri. However, it seems there was an exception to his orderly tendencies. If he was truly obsessed with cleanliness, then the treasures among the gold pieces should have been tidily arranged as well. One would not want to say that one’s room was filthy, after all. Come to think of it, these items should be arranged in order of defensive gear, weapons, jewellery, wondrous items, consumables, crafting supplies, and so on. Also, there’s the rooms for the management of Nazarick… and yes, there should be a room for data crystals.”
As Ainz chattered on, he pointed to where a two-dimensional shadow now appeared on the wall.
“However, they’re all located in the same place inside, and it doesn’t really matter which direction you enter from… oh, my apologies. I seem to have said too much.”
“Certainly not. I am grateful that you would answer our questions so readily, Ainz-sama.”
The two battle maids bowed in thanks as Albedo made her reply.
We’re almost out of time, what the hell am I doing? It seems like my mouth won’t stop whenever I talk about the glories of Nazarick...
Ainz shrugged, and then looked to the shadow before him.
This was a door which required a certain password to open. Perhaps one could force it open with magic or rogue skills, but Ainz did not know spells like that, not did he have such skills. Thus, he had to speak the password—
Hm, I forgot it.
That was only to be expected.
There were so many such gimmicks in Nazarick that he would probably only be able to remember a password if it was one he used frequently. However, given that he did not come to the Treasury often, he did not remember the password to this door.
He had only come here when paying for the upkeep costs of Nazarick with the money he had earned, and that had been years ago.
Since he could not remember the password, Ainz spoke a master password:
“All glory to Ainz Ooal Gown.”
In response, the jet-black door displayed a series of words: “Ascendit a terra in coelum, iterumque descendit in terram, et recipit vim superiorum et inferiorum.”
(TL Note: This is an excerpt from the Emerald Tablet, AKA the Tabula Smaragdina.)
“...Tabula Smaragdina-san really was a perfectionist.”
Albedo reacted to those words which Ainz could not help but mention.
Ainz thought of one of the people who had designed the tricks and traps used by Ainz Ooal Gown.
He had a hand in designing about 20% of the smaller mechanisms throughout the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick. His abnormally intricate designs consumed much of Nazarick’s free data capacity, which caused the other members to complain about being unable to indulge themselves. Thus, he took responsibility for his actions and paid for many cash items to expand said data capacity.
Ainz studied the words which appeared. This must be a hint for the password, but what could it mean?
He racked his brains, taking his time to plumb the depths of his mind for the answer.
Soon, Ainz finally found the password, which slumbered within his memories.
“It should be — By this means you shall acquire the glory of the whole world, / And so you shall drive away all shadows and blindness — am I correct?”
As Ainz said this, he looked to Shizu with questioning eyes.
Shizu nodded in response to him.
She had been made by one of his friends who had worked on different mechanisms from Tabula Smaragdina. Shizu’s backstory had been written so that she would be familiar with the bypassing of Nazarick’s mechanisms. This was why she could easily solve that password hint.
However, Ainz had not asked her for help because he wanted to indulge the selfish desire to open the door through his own efforts.
The Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick had been brought to life when it came to this new world. Therefore, he wanted to be the first to set his feet here, much like how men wanted to leave their footprints on freshly-fallen snow. It was that desire which drove Ainz to open the door on his own.
As though in response to Ainz’s wishes, the shadow-door collapsed into a single point. Soon, the shadow was gone, leaving a fist-sized sphere of blackness floating in the air.
Now that the shadow had vanished, one could see into the tunnel that had been left behind. This was an orderly place, completely unlike the previous area. The best way to describe it would be something like a display from a museum.
The dimly-lit room was very long and stretched ever inward.
The ceiling was about five meters above the ground, a height which was clearly not designed with humans in mind, while it was about ten meters from one wall to the other.
The ground was made of tightly-fit, shiny black stone blocks, and it looked like a single gigantic stone slab.
Neat rows of countless weapons were arrayed on the walls to Ainz’s left and right, making an impressive display.
“I’m going in.”
Ainz entered the Armory without waiting for his three followers to respond.
What awaited the three of them were broadswords, greatswords, estocs, flamberges, scimitars, patas, shotels, kukris, claymores, short swords, sword breakers...
Of course, swords were not the only weapons here. There were one-handed axes, two-handed axes, one-handed bludgeons, javelins, bows, crossbows...
Just the types alone were almost uncountable.
In addition, there were many unrealistic weapons here that stretched the definition of actually being called weapons. Those were the kind that could not possibly be sheathed, or which were more decorative than useful, and so on. No, these weapons were in the majority.
Almost none of them were made of anything as ordinary as mere steel.
There was a sword with a blade of blue crystal, a pure-white sword with gold inlays and engravings, a black sword with purple runes along its body, and even a bow that seemed to have been strung with pure light.
Then there were other weapons that looked dangerous even at a glance.
There was a two-handed axe whose blade constantly dripped fresh blood. Tormented faces appeared and vanished on the black metal of a gigantic mace. There was a lance that resembled human hands clasping each other. And then there were many more weapons like these, in amounts which defied easy counting.
One could guess that most of them were magic weapons, but the exact effect each of them had was a mystery. One might be able to guess at the purpose of a sword whose blade flickered like a flame, but it was impossible to know the abilities of a sword whose blade looked like a whip and which wriggled like a centipede.
The group looked at these weapons on either side as they silently walked through the Armory. Before long — about 100 meters and thousands of weapons later — they reached their destination, which was a rectangular room.
It might have been used to receive guests, since there was a table and sofa set in the middle of the otherwise-empty room. There were other passages visible to the left and right which looked similar to the one through which Ainz and company had entered.
There was only one route which led further on, in contrast to the way they had entered. The atmosphere of that way was also dramatically different. If the previous room had been like a museum, then the next one was like a tomb.
The height of the room was about the same as the previous one, but the dim interior extended further in. It was hard to tell due to the angles, but it looked like there was a large niche set into the wall, with something placed within it.
After hearing the sounds of surprise from behind him, Ainz said:
“Within lies the Mausoleum.”
“Hm? Albedo… do you not know the name of that room?”
Well, I did pick that name myself… If it’s like just now, Albedo might not even know the name of the Treasury’s Guardian…
“Then, do you know of Pandora’s Actor?”
“Yes, I do. As the Guardian Overseer, I am aware of his name and appearance… Pandora’s Actor is the Area Guardian of the Treasury, and his abilities are on par with myself and Demiurge. Other than managing the Treasury, his purpose is also to prepare the currency needed to activate Nazarick’s defense network. In other words, he is a treasurer.”
“That’s pretty much it. However, that is not all. That fellow—”
Before Ainz could finish, he was interrupted — the three NPCs turned to look at one of the other passages and saw an entity there.
That being had a bizarre appearance.
While it had a man’s body, its head was that of a distorted squid. The right side of its head was half-covered in a twisted, tattooed letters, which resembled the ones that had floated up on the door just now.
Its skin was like that of a corpse, with purple blotches amidst a ghastly white color, and it was covered in some sort of sticky slime that gave off a bizarre sheen. Webs of skin grew between the long digits of its four-fingered hands.
Its body was covered in a shiny, form-fitting black leather outfit studded with silver jewelry. Several belts wrapped around it. Its black cape was closed in front of it, as if to conceal its body.
It was the very picture of a heteromorphic character. The six twitching tentacles which sprouted from its mouth dangled down to its thighs, and it turned its cloudy blue pupil-less eyes to survey the group.
Albedo cried out in surprise:
This was one of the 41 Supreme Beings. As a magic caster, he was superior to Ainz in terms of attack power.
“No, that’s not right!” she immediately continued.
The two maids watched Albedo’s reaction and swiftly moved into action.
Shizu drew her gun and braced its stock against her shoulder, levelling her muzzle at the person before her.
Yuri clenched her fists in front of her chest, and punched her gauntlets together, which made a sound like a ringing gong.
Then, she slid next to Albedo’s side, in front of Ainz and Shizu. Ainz was a magic caster while Shizu was a gunner, neither of whom did well in close combat. Thus, this was the ideal position for her to be in order to cover for them.
“Who are you?! Even if you disguise yourself and your presence as a Supreme Being, I would not mistake my own master for anyone else!”
The mysterious being who looked like Tabula Smaragdina merely inclined its head at Albedo’s question, but did not make any reply.
“—Really now. Kill it.”
As that cold voice rang forth, the two battle maids hesitated. Though this was an unknown opponent, they were still a little reluctant to attack someone who resembled one of their creators.
Under these circumstances, one could not fault the battle maids. All that could be said was that Albedo’s calm judgement was impeccable.
Their top priority was the safety of their ward, Ainz.
Albedo clicked her tongue as the other two failed to act. Just as she was about to charge, a distinctly unhappy Ainz said:
“That’s enough. Return to your true form, Pandora’s Actor!”
Tabula Smaragdina’s body distorted.
In the space of a heartbeat, another heteromorphic being stood where the impostor Tabula Smaragdina had been, though it was something else entirely.
Its face was flat, with no nose or other facial features. Its mouth and eyes were replaced by three empty holes. There were no eyeballs, teeth or a tongue; just three black holes which looked like they had been drawn on by a child with a black marker.
The pink, egg like head was smooth and shiny, without a single hair to mar its surface.
This strange character — and Narberal — were both Doppelgangers.
His name was Pandora’s Actor, and he was a level 100 NPC personally designed by Ainz and placed in charge of the Treasury. His talents lay in disguise, and he could copy 45 separate forms and even their abilities — though only at 80% of the originals’ potency.
His hat bore the crest of Ainz Ooal Gown, while the uniform he wore was very similar to the uniforms used by Neo-Nazi elite guards during the Euro-Arcology Wars 20 years ago.
After forcefully clicking his heels together, he raised his right hand to his cap in a grossly overacted salute.
“I bid you a fond welcome, my creator, Momonga-sama!”
“...You seem quite lively.”
“Indeed! I burst with energy every day! Speaking of which, may I know the purpose for which you have come? And to think you would have in your train these fair maidens, the Guardian Overseer and the Pleiades Battle Maids!”
Yuri and Albedo returned to their positions behind Ainz after the Area Guardian revealed himself, although the three of them had different looks on their faces.
Yuri — who took pride in her position as one of the Pleiades — adjusted her glasses and seemed displeased at being called a “fair maiden”. She looked as though she wanted to say something, though ultimately she did not.
Albedo, who stood beside Ainz, seemed to be jealous of the fact that Pandora’s Actor had been created by Ainz and pursed her lips where Ainz could not see her.
Shizu, on the other hand, showed no change in her expression and simply returned her weapon to its place.
“We will be going into the innermost vaults to retrieve World-Class Items.”
“Of what do you speak?! Has the time come to unleash their power?!”
Pandora’s Actor put on an exaggerated look of shock. This act made Ainz furrow his nonexistent eyebrows.
His clothes were one thing, but why did he have to over-react to everything? No, Ainz knew the answer to that.
Ainz was the creator of Pandora’s Actor; in other words, his every move and gesture existed because Ainz thought they were stylish. Thus, he had happily worked them into the character design.
“...Ugh, this is really…”
In the past, he had thought of military uniforms as being very cool, and he believed that actors ought to be dramatic, but watching someone as intelligent like him make such showy motions was—
“Uwah~ how lame~”
Those quiet words slipped free of Ainz’s heart, so softly that nobody heard.
This was his black history.
His living, breathing black history (Pandora’s Actor).
If anyone else in the guild were around to witness this NPC’s conversion into an actual person, they would probably be rolling around on the floor, laughing out loud. Well, that was how he felt; he was not pointing fingers at anyone.
“...Forget it, I need to pull myself together. As one of the undead, I don’t have time to be shaken by such psychological blows,” Ainz quietly said to himself as he calmed himself down.
“...Mm, you’re right. I intend to withdraw [Greed and Generosity], [Hygieia’s Chalice], [Billion Blades] and [Depiction of Mountains and Rivers].”
“...And what of the other two?”
“Leave them. They’re one-use items. The fact that they’re so powerful means you have to think about the right time and place to use them. Then, there’s also the matter of how to recover the items to use them again.”
“Indeed, it is so. For these legendary treasures, so mighty and potent that they are worthy of being called trump cards, which can make the impossible possible, or even change the face of the entire world—”
“—Pandora’s Actor, I’d like to test your knowledge; there are 200 World-Class Items, but how many of them are you familiar with?”
“Forgive me, Momonga-sama, but I only know of 11 of them.”
Ainz nodded in acknowledgement. Those were the World-Class Items which Ainz Ooal Gown possessed. He did not know that there was one more, [Atlas], which had been stolen from them. In other words, he had learned that the NPCs’ knowledge was affected by their settings, but they could ignore any contradictions in their backstories.
Ainz had observed the NPCs for several days now. He had learned that the NPCs seemed to take after his former guildmates in the parts of the their personalities which were not covered by their character details, as well as in the interpersonal relationships with other NPCs. For instance, the relationship between Shalltear and Aura, or that between Demiurge and Sebas.
Ainz smiled, though his expression did not change.
So basically, they’re like everyone’s children.
It felt like his friends from the past were by his side once more. It gladdened Ainz’s heart, but at the same time he felt terribly alone.
Ainz shook his head to disperse his hurt feelings.
“Is that so, Pandora’s Actor. I seem to have asked you a pointless question.”
“Certainly not; I must tender my sincerest apologies for my lack of knowledge.”
With that, he bowed. Every move he made was exaggerated to the point of being ridiculous.
“...Never mind. I will be heading to the Mausoleum soon. Has anything happened here?”
“Of course not; everything within this domain is the sole property of yourself and all your colleagues, Momonga-sama. How could anything happen?”
With a theatrical flourish, he gestured all around him.
“Although, it is with a heavy heart that I confess that I was hoping you intended to make use of my abilities, Momonga-sama.”
Ainz paused, and began sizing up this heteromorphic creature.
He was right; at one point Ainz had indeed intended to make use of him. Pandora’s Actor possessed wit and cunning that ranked among the pinnacle of Nazarick’s denizens. While he usually applied said intelligence toward strange purposes, it was very difficult to cast aside his wisdom during times of great need.
In addition, Pandora’s Actor possessed very flexible abilities, to the point where he could replace all the other Guardians.
However, Ainz had not made him for combat or administrative duties, but to preserve the forms of “Ainz Ooal Gown” and the memories of his comrades.
“...You are my final ace in the hole, so I do not intend to use you for petty tasks.”
“...I am truly grateful for that.”
With a look on his face which suggested that he was hesitant to speak (probably), Pandora’s Actor once more took a deep bow.
“Understood. Then, I shall continue to manage the Treasury from now on.”
“Mm, make me proud. Also, from now onwards, call me Ainz, Ainz Ooal Gown.”
“Ohhhh! I hear and obey, my creator, Ainz-sama!”
After Pandora’s Actor saluted him, Ainz turned away, as if to show that the conversation was over. Just then, a voice came from behind him.
“However, Ainz-sama; though this might offend you, I submit that since a situation has arisen that requires the use of World-Class Items, it might be better for you to permit me to leave the Treasury and move around on other floors.”
He had a point there.
Pandora’s Actor was a treasure, but it would be foolish to lose more important treasures because all he did was display him rather than use him. Now was the time to deploy of him, given that this was an emergency situation, and he also had to move the Treasury’s gold to the Throne Room.
After making his decision, Ainz turned around, just in time to see Pandora’s Actor placing a hand on his chest, as if to recommend himself.
Ainz also heard a quiet “uwah~” from the otherwise expressionless Shizu.
That sound carved a grievous wound into Ainz’s soul — although his emotional suppression immediately calmed him down.
Pandora’s Actor was indeed far too dramatic, and it made his creator (Ainz) think that every single movement he made was designed to scream “I am cool”.
Perhaps such actions would fit him if he was a handsome man, but instead he was an egghead, which made them terribly unfitting. It even made Ainz feel uneasy when he saw him.
Ainz quietly studied Pandora’s Actor for a while, and then he plucked a ring from his pocket dimension and tossed it to him.
The ring traced an arc through the air, landing neatly in the hand of Pandora’s Actor.
“This… is the Ring of Ainz Ooal Gown, and it possesses the ability to...”
Ainz held up a hand, as though to tell Pandora’s Actor not to go on. Although he seemed quite disappointed, Ainz decided to pay him no heed.
“This is just in case. Albedo, inform the vassals of Nazarick about Pandora’s Actor. Before that, you are only to travel between the Throne Room and the Treasury, Pandora’s Actor.”
The two of them responded at the same time, but Pandora’s Actor clicked his heels together with great force, tossing out his arm which was straightened all the way to the tips of his fingers and saluted with great pomp and circumstance… or to put it less kindly, he was hamming it up.
Ainz looked at his egghead, and gently shook his head.
He was not a bad sort, and he was quite capable, but regretfully—
Why did I design him with such a personality? I used to think this sort of thing was so cool. No, actually, I still think his uniform is kind of cool...
If Ainz could have blushed, his face would be bright red.
“Oi, Pandora’s Actor.”
Ainz grabbed Pandora’s Actor by the shoulders and pulled him aside, as if to say “Come with me.” Of course, he told Albedo and the maids to stay where they were.
“I have an important question for you. I am your creator, and the one you are loyal to, right?”
“Indubitably so, Ainz-sama! For as I was made by you, if you desire me to do battle with the other Supreme Beings, I shall charge into the fray without hesitation!”
“I see… then, I have a request for you as a human being… no, a man… no, as your creator… But could you please not salute any more?”
Pandora’s Actor locked his vacant eyes with Ainz’s own, his confusion at Ainz’s words evident within them.
“Er, that… how shall I put it, your saluting is pretty weird, so please don’t salute any more… As for your uniform, it makes you look very strong, so we’ll leave that be… but please, really, don’t salute any more.”
“Wenn es meines Gottes Wille!”
(TL Note: If this is my God’s will!)
“Is that German? Don’t speak like that either. No, you may use it if you please, but just not in front of me. I’m begging you.”
This was the first time Pandora’s Actor had such a look of shock on his face, and his answer seemed a little strange. After realizing their faces were close enough for a kiss, Ainz backed off and asked weakly:
“Please, I’m begging you. I didn’t think my emotion override would trigger over something like this. It’s worse than riding a giant hamster… I can hardly believe it myself. Although I’d like to discuss the matter in greater detail, the situation is quite urgent, so we’ll leave it at this for now.”
♦ ♦ ♦
“Then, there’s something which has to be done before entering the Mausoleum. Albedo, leave the Ring of Ainz Ooal Gown which I gave you with Pandora’s Actor.”
Ainz explained the reason for that to a confused Albedo.
“This is the final trap emplaced here; the Avataras within are programmed to attack anyone with a Ring, even if that person is you or me.”
“I see… intruders would use the Ring to get here. Thus, they would trigger that final trap.”
“Evil, don’t you think?”
“Of, of course not!”
Albedo reluctantly plucked the Ring from her left ring finger, folding it into a silk handkerchief before handing it to Pandora’s Actor. As he saw this, Ainz removed his ring as well, and placed it into a box that he had produced from thin air.
“Ah!” Ainz exclaimed. He seemed to have thought of something. He placed the ring with the box which contained all the other rings that he had not yet decided to gift to people.
This was because he would still be considered to have the ring on even if it were in his pocket dimension, which would result in the Avataras attacking him if he entered the Mausoleum.
“Albedo-sama… could you please let go?”
As he heard that vaguely annoyed voice, Ainz turned to see Albedo and Pandora’s Actor playing tug-of-war with the silk handkerchief.
“My, my precious…”
“Ainz-sama said so, didn’t he? If you wear the Ring, you’ll be attacked. It’s just taking it off for a while…”
“What are you saying? This is the Ring which Ainz-sama gave me! How could I—!”
“...Albedo, there’s no time for this. If you’re unwilling to leave it with him, then I shall...”
“My apologies, I’m ready now!”
Albedo suddenly let go, making Pandora’s Actor lose his balance and stumble back with a cry.
“Is that so… then enter. Pandora’s Actor, you will direct Yuri and Shizu to move some of the treasure to the Throne Room… Though it might be troublesome, be considerate of Albedo and do not use her Ring. Instead, use the one I gave you.”
“Thank you very much, Ainz-sama! I cannot bear the thought of others using the Ring that you personally gifted to me. But — Of — Course — since this is an emergency, it is not that I am truly unwilling. I just wish to let you know how much I value that ring, Ainz-sama, although I am sure that you already know that even without the need for me to—”
“—Understood! ...Then, who shall stay here and receive Ainz-sama when he returns?”
A look that ill-fitted an elegant beauty crossed Albedo’s face as Pandora’s Actor interrupted her self-promotion. Ainz decided to look away from Albedo in that state, so as not to mar the image of the beautiful maiden in his mind.
“We should be some time. I will notify you with a [Message] and you can return to us then. After all, we cannot leave this place without a Ring.”
Ainz and Albedo entered the Mausoleum, under the eyes of Pandora’s Actor and the two maids.
This dimly-lit place was deathly silent, and it seemed like a suitable place for the spirits of the departed to rest. Ainz felt somewhat guilty about breaking the silence here, but nevertheless, he opened his mouth and asked the person travelling beside him:
“That’s right, Albedo: what do you know about World-Class Items?”
“From what I can tell, they are the most valuable treasures that the Supreme Beings have collected. They are deeply cherished and one of them is in my possession… but that is all.”
“I see. Then, on some other day, I shall commit what I know about the World-Class Items to paper. It will be safer to let more people know about that information. Before that, however, I shall inform you about these dangerous items.”
Ainz began talking about them as he walked.
♦ ♦ ♦
These items were closely linked to the game world of YGGDRASIL.
The World Tree YGGDRASIL had countless leaves, but then a gigantic monster appeared which devoured these leaves, causing them to fall one after the other, until only nine were left. These nine leaves were the previous incarnations of the Nine Worlds: Asgard, Alfheim, Vanaheim, Nidavellir, Midgard, Jotunheim, Niflheim, Helheim and Muspelheim.
However,that leaf-eating monster continued its advance on those nine remaining leaves. This was the backstory upon which the players adventured into unknown worlds in order to protect their own world.
What did those World-Class Items represent? They were equivalent to those other leaves — in other words, a single World-Class Item represented a world. Thus, the basic design principle of World-Class Items was that they possessed enormous power, and indeed, many World-Class Items were extremely powerful.
Many players had even expressed the opinion that these items were too imbalanced, but the developers simply replied: “The possibilities of the world are not so small”, and showed no intention of changing these balance breakers.
The developers seemed to have a soft spot for the word “World”, and so any class or monster with “World” in its name was usually much stronger than normal.
To the developers, the incredibly powerful last boss of the main campaign storyline — known as the “World Eater” — was the signature World-Class Enemy. In addition, only the winners of a tournament held in each world could become a “World Champion”.
♦ ♦ ♦
Just as Ainz got to that part, the two of them arrived at two neatly flanking rows of niches, each filled with a statue dressed in battle gear.
This place resembled the Lemegeton, down to its magic arrays and the mood in the air. However, while the Demons of the Lemegeton were not armed, all the statues here sported incredibly powerful gear, and their potency rivalled Ainz’s primary battle equipment.
“Ai-Ainz-sama, are these statues made in imitation of the Supreme Beings…”
“So you noticed. That’s right — the Avataras are statues made in the image of my former comrades. Still… while you can tell they’re very strong, they look ugly, don’t they? I don’t think I managed to capture even 10% of their coolness…”
“As one who was created by the Supreme Beings, there is no way I could not notice.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, just so. However, Ainz-sama… from the name of this place, and these statues… Could it be that the other Supreme Beings have passed away?”
“That… is not exactly correct.”
No, perhaps that was the right answer.
Ainz halted in his tracks, and quietly looked over the statues as that thought ran through his head.
Albedo had no idea what to make of Ainz’s silence, and a look of unease spread over her face.
No man could possibly be unmoved by a sad look on a world-class beauty like her. In addition, she was the loving handiwork of one of his past comrades. Though Ainz was undead, his heart still filled up with guilt and anxiety.
However, Ainz had never had a girlfriend, or even friends in real life, so he had no idea what he could say to comfort her or show sympathy. Panicking, Ainz looked desperately around, trying to think of something to say.
Just then, Ainz noticed something, and he reflexively spoke.
“You, you see, those four empty spaces?”
After making sure that Albedo’s eyes were turned in that direction, Ainz explained why there were no statues in there.
“I shall put my own Avatara in one of these niches.”
Of course not.
The fact was, Ainz was the one who had built and emplaced the Avataras. Because of that, if Ainz left the game, there would be nobody to put Ainz’s Avatara there for him, given that nobody else remained in the guild.
His Guild members had said, “You can have them”, and then left the game after transferring their equipment and cash items to him. Ainz had then used cash items of his own to make these golems, in order to put their equipment to use, and to serve as a memorial for his friends who had left the game.
This was also why the Avataras looked so ugly.
When making Pandora’s Actor, Ainz had the visual data of his guild members on hand, but Ainz did not possess the ability or skills needed to make a character which could look like the guild members from scratch.
Thus, he used purchased visual data and installed it into a golem’s body. The result was these nightmarish monsters, whose limbs were too long or too short, or whose heads were overly enlarged.
However, that mismatched hideousness lent them a sinister air and induced intense unease in people. Therefore, from the point of view of making a set of final guardians, Ainz considered them to have turned out surprisingly well.
How should I say this… they look like puppets I made when I was a kid. It’s kind of embarrassing...
Besides embarrassment, however, there was another emotion which Ainz felt.
That was loneliness.
When his comrades left the game one after the other, Ainz made the Avataras to store their equipment. Those friends of his who had not left the game had once asked him why he had made the Avataras, and this was how he had answered:
He might need to use them as a final defensive line of guardians.
However, as the number of members steadily decreased, the motivation behind the creation of the Avataras was simply because he was lonely. After all, he had fewer and fewer friends who could play the game with him.
He had made the Avataras to symbolize the struggles he and his friends had shared in the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick, and to compensate for their absence.
This was also the reason why this place was called the Mausoleum. Initially, it was known as the Innermost Sanctum of the Treasury. But Ainz had changed its name in memory of those friends who had left — or rather, vanished from — YGGDRASIL, and turned this place into a resting place for his comrades.
—That said, I still want to believe that my friends were brought here as well. For all I know, everyone might be in some corner of this world...
Just as Ainz sank into deep thought, a pained cry echoed through the passage.
“Please don’t — please do not say that!”
The loneliness he had felt vanished in an instant, and as Ainz hurriedly turned to look at Albedo, an even more powerful sense of surprise assaulted him. Albedo’s eyes brimmed with tears, and it seemed like they would flow freely if she just blinked a little.
“...Ainz-sama. Our merciful, compassionate master Ainz-sama, the only one of the Supreme Beings who stayed with us to the end, the one to whom we owe our ultimate loyalty — please do not say that. It is my sincerest wish that you will be our lord and master for all eternity!”
Albedo fell to her knees before Ainz.
Her voice was choked as she hoarsely repeated “Please… please”. It sounded like a prayer and a cry of pain — as though she were coughing up blood — at the same time.
Ainz had never seen anyone plead so earnestly in the course of his entire life.
He had not expected his jest to have such an effect on Albedo, and Ainz was filled with guilt as he reached down to help up the kneeling Albedo.
Had he not once thought that his own friends had abandoned him?
Had he not felt despair every day he was alone in the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick, because nobody else was around?
Had he not felt anger from that loneliness?
Knowing this misery and bitterness, why had he not understood Albedo’s feelings? Why had he subjected Albedo to this pain?
After helping her up, Ainz saw that Albedo’s face was streaked with tears, and her eyes were still moist.
Ainz produced a handkerchief, and clumsily tried to wipe away her tears.
He wanted to apologize again — but in the end he said nothing, for want of suitable words.
He lacked experience with interpersonal relationships, and did not know how to comfort her and stop her tears.
At her wits’ end, the sniffling Albedo pleaded with Ainz:
“Ai-Ainz-sama, p-please promise me, promise me you will not abandon us and leave!”
“...I’m sorry, but…”
Ainz could not continue after the “but”. That was because he had thought of something, but Albedo seemed to have assumed his silence was due to another reason.
“Why? Why can’t you promise me that? Were you planning on abandoning us as well? Why? What has displeased you! All you need to do is explain and I shall correct myself immediately! If you consider me a hindrance, then I shall end my life on the spot!”
“No!” Ainz shouted. Albedo’s shoulders lurched in shock.
“Please listen to me. First, currently… there is no way to save Shalltear. Her mind control is definitely the effect of a World-Class Item. The only way to protect against the effects of a World-Class Item is to have a World-Class Item yourself, or a special job class.”
Ainz wiped Albedo’s tears away as though she were a child. She sniffled, and then asked:
“So, so the reason you, you came here was, to withdraw a World-Class Item?”
“Correct. I wanted the Guardians to have World-Class Items of their own. The fact is, one could probably undo Shalltear’s mind control with a similar World-Class Item, but I don’t know if I should use the World-Class Items within… what a heartless master I am. To think I would actually value a measly little item over one of my loyal subordinates.”
“That, that’s not true! The World-Class items were gathered through the efforts of the Supreme Beings, and so they are more valuable than we are!”
If they were in the game, Ainz would agree with her, though part of him would feel otherwise.
However, under these circumstances, the fact was that Ainz could not bring himself to use these trump cards.
Among all the balance-breaking World-Class Items, there were the twenty items known as “the Twenty”. The Twenty possessed unparallelled power.
There was a famous item among the Twenty called [Longinus], which could completely delete its target, but the price the user paid for that was to be utterly deleted himself.
There was no way to restore the data of anyone deleted by that World-Class item, other than by using the resurrection powers of other World-Class Items. Neither cash items or resurrection spells would work. If someone were to use it on an NPC of Nazarick, it would even reduce the maximum levels of NPCs which could be created — the special feature of a guild homebase.
Ainz recalled several other equally insane items.
There was [Ahura Mazda], which had a potent effect on anything with a negative karma value, and its area of effect could span an entire world.
There was [Five-Element Progression], which could request the YGGDRASIL developers to change part of the magic system.
There was also [Ouroboros], which could request a more far-reaching change to the system than [Five-Element Progression].
Then, there was the most powerful World-Class Item, [World Savior]. Normally, it only had the power of an ordinary club, but it could grow in strength without limit. A single enemy with this item could conquer the whole of Nazarick, even at the height of its power with all its members present.
The items known as the Twenty were so powerful that they would vanish after being used once, which was why he could not bear to use them lightly, but instead treated them as trump cards.
Ainz Ooal Gown proudly boasted possession of two of the Twenty. They would only be used against enemies of incredible power, because only items of matching power could rival them.
In addition, it was one thing if they simply vanished after use.
However, what if they fell into someone else’s hands after vanishing? What if they fell into the hands of Nazarick’s enemies?
Nazarick was protected by World-Class Items, so the interior should not be affected, but if things went poorly, the enemy might be able to lay siege to the entrance.
Therefore, he had to find some other way to save Shalltear, without using World-Class Items.
“Albedo, I am grateful for your words. I shall now tell you the reason why I was silent just now.”
His body still felt like the human it had once been. Ainz took a deep breath, like he had while he was alive, because he knew how important the words that came next would be.
“I intend to challenge Shalltear to a one-on-one battle. Therefore… I am unsure if I can return alive.”
“—I understand that we must do battle with Shalltear, because leaving her be is the worst possible option!”
Ainz nodded in his heart.
He did not know why the enemy had not given Shalltear any orders, but once they did, the situation would become dire, because everything about Nazarick might end up being exposed.
“Still, why must it be a one-on-one fight? Can we not win by numbers? Are we unable to help you?”
As he wiped away Albedo’s freshly-shed tears, Ainz answered:
“It is not that, Albedo. I trust you. It’s just that… well, there are three reasons. The first… is because I doubt my own suitability as your master.”
“How can you say that, Ainz-sama?!”
Ainz raised his hand to interrupt her.
“...Since I considered the possibility of players existing, I should have also thought of the existence of World-Class Items. Therefore, I wonder if such a slow-thinking person as myself has any value as a ruler, and if I am qualified to lead everyone.”
“Your presence alone is value enough, Ainz-sama! If there is any inadequacy, we will assist you with all our strength!”
“Thank you, but the person most responsible for this incident is myself.”
If this world truly possessed a [Longinus], then it was possible that all the Guardians might be eradicated for the price of a villager’s life. It was quite bad that Shalltear had been mind-controlled, but when one was aware of that aforementioned danger, they had gotten off remarkably lightly.
“And so you intend to atone for your sins by fighting Shalltear in single combat… but who could possibly punish you, Ainz-sama, the highest ruler of Nazarick?”
“That’s not all. This is the second reason… the fact that Shalltear is alone. It might well be a trap — indeed, it could be a fatal trap.”
As he saw the puzzled expression on Albedo’s face, Ainz continued speaking:
“We — Ainz Ooal Gown — often used PK methods similar to how Shalltear is now. We would use one of our members as bait and then hunt down any prey who got hooked. Of course, there was a high chance of the bait being killed, but in exchange, we would make sure any enemies who attacked were wiped out.”
“If that’s the case, Ainz-sama!”
“Wait a minute, I’m not finished. Do you know what we feared most whenever we set a trap like this?”
Without waiting for a reply, Ainz proceeded to answer his own question.
“That would be the number of attackers being less than the number of people used as bait. The less people we hooked, the more we had to worry about enemy ambushers turning the trap against us.”
After he saw the understanding dawn in Albedo’s bloodshot eyes, the unbreathing Ainz exhaled anyway.
“And the last reason is because Shalltear has to die.”
“In that case, let me go! I am the most suitable for the task, since I have a World-Class Item of my own.”
“... Are you sure you can win? Don’t lie to me — tell me your odds of victory.”
Albedo bit her lip under Ainz’s calm gaze.
“Albedo… you are right. Shalltear is very strong.”
She was the strongest Guardian of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick. Not even Albedo — no, nobody among the other level 100 NPCs was capable of facing her.
“Because of that… I must be the one. I am the only one who can challenge Shalltear in a one-on-one fight and win.”
“Well, about that… perhaps you could defeat her in your full equipment, but…”
Ainz sported a full set of divine-class items and all sorts of cash items, while Shalltear only had a single divine-class item, her Spuit Lance. Ainz had a massive advantage in terms of equipment quality. However, what Albedo had left unsaid was the reason why Ainz’s chances of victory were slim.
Ainz was fully aware of that reason as well.
It was because Shalltear Bloodfallen was the nemesis of Ainz Ooal Gown.
Ainz roleplayed an undead magician, and his character build focused on necromancer-type classes.
In other words, his character had been built for entertainment.
Shalltear, on the other hand, had been made with an optimized build. In addition, Shalltear’s divine magic caster classes could use many spells which were very effective on the undead, and she was adept at melee combat.
(TL Note: the JP term is “gachi build”, where gachi refers to muscles or being powerful. The same term also comes up in the Overlord Prologue)
These two reasons were bad enough, and on top of that, the necromantic spells Ainz favored did not work well on Shalltear.
Ainz could not use his specialty against Shalltear, and Shalltear had an advantage when fighting the undead.
In addition, Ainz typically did not equip his best items because he feared that they would be stolen away. Thus, when they clashed, Ainz’s chances would be very low. Worse, he might not have a chance at all.
“So you’re saying that the circumstances don’t favor me?”
Ainz had the right of it. Albedo lowered her head.
That might be the case, Ainz agreed. He should not be able to beat Shalltear.
—You’ll see that the title of Supreme Ruler of Nazarick which you call me is not for show.
“—There is nothing wrong with your thinking, but it is in error. After all, you only possess the knowledge has been infused into you.”
“Eh? What does that mean?”
“How experienced are you?”
Albedo’s face turned bright red in an instant.
“Yes, combat experience.”
“Ah! So that’s what you meant! Yes, I can make full use of the strength which the Supreme Beings have given me. So I believe it counts as being very experienced.”
Ainz shook his head to reject Albedo’s answer. He had learned a lot when fighting that Clementine woman.
“That’s not right. Being able to wield power and gained experience are completely different things. Do you remember the large-scale invasion of Nazarick? Are you familiar with Shalltear’s memories of fighting players?”
“I did not ask in detail, but she said she vaguely remembered being killed once.”
Albedo shook her head to indicate that she did not.
“...Typically, she and I were the ones who handled lone intruders… That stinginess helped quite a lot. That being the case, I should be the one who goes, since I have the highest chances of winning.”
Ainz smiled coldly. Naturally, his face did not move.
However, Albedo seemed to have felt the smile of her absolute ruler, and her cheeks turned pink, as though looking upon the man that she adored.
Ainz made his challenge to a person who was not here.
“When I was the guildmaster of Ainz Ooal Gown, my chances of victory in PVP combat were quite high… granted, I lost to people who had flawless builds, but how could I be defeated by someone who only relies on high stats? More importantly, I had a close friendship with Peroroncino. This is what they mean by “The battle’s over before it’s begun”... do you get it, Shalltear?”
“...Ainz-sama, I will no longer try to stop you. However, I want you to promise that you will return here safely.”
Ainz studied Albedo quietly, and then slowly nodded.
“I promise you that I will defeat Shalltear and return to this place.”
A vast, emerald-green world spread before him. Ainz looked around, and then chuckled at his post-teleport reflex to check if anyone was around. If there was anyone that Ainz needed to look out for, they would have attacked long ago, without giving him the chance to look around.
For security’s sake, he had also chosen to teleport to a point over two kilometers away from Shalltear.
While he had already checked the surroundings with magic, there was no way to completely guarantee that the World-Class Item user who had mind-controlled Shalltear was not around. However, in the end all he could do was try not to worry unnecessarily. As Ainz rounded his shoulders in relief, he looked behind, to the two people that were following him.
“Let’s split up here,” he told Aura and Mare.
They were the only two people whom Ainz had permitted to walk with him before the impending battle.
He had already ordered those subordinates who had tasks outside back to Nazarick. Apart from Aura and Mare, only Sebas and Solution were still at large.
The main reason he had chosen them was to play on his enemies’ emotional weakness. Unlike Demiurge and Cocytus, who were heteromorphs, Aura and Mare were humanoids. Perhaps their foe would be unwilling to slay such adorable humanoid children.
Of course, perhaps the enemy might really be that ruthless. Even so, he wanted to have people around in case something happened.
Although, it might not help at all.
Ainz looked at the two mismatched gauntlets on Mare’s hands. The right one was fashioned in the shape of an angel’s sleek hand and glowed with silver light, but the left one resembled a demon’s claw, covered in hooks and spikes. The crimson radiance of magma leaked through the fissures on its surface.
Then, he turned to Aura, and at the large scroll behind her.
“...If you are outnumbered, retreat to Nazarick immediately.”
Aura nodded, her face stiff. Mare rushed to lower his head as well.
“Listen well, you must retreat. This is also part of my plans. In addition, the items I have given you are the treasures of Nazarick. You cannot allow them to be taken, no matter what. In some ways, they can be considered more valuable than you are. Do you understand?” Ainz exhorted.
Ainz felt uneasy over Aura’s somewhat reluctant response. If she disobeyed his orders due to her loyalty, it might lead to a fatal problem.
After hearing their replies — one energetic, one shy and retiring — a question arose in Ainz’s heart.
In truth, which do I value more?
He did not want to use a World-Class Item to save Shalltear. From that point of view, one could say that he valued the items more.
However, the reason for not using the World-Class Items was the same as what he had told Albedo in the Treasury. They were aces in the hole, which could turn any defeat into a victory.
It was one thing if there was no other way to save Shalltear, but since there was still another possibility, it would be wiser not to use them yet.
Leaving these reasons aside, which was more important? The NPCs — who had been painstakingly crafted by his companions, and who were now sapient and loyal beings, or the World-Class Items — which symbolized the adventures which had raised the standing of Ainz Ooal Gown within the game YGGDRASIL?
Though Ainz thought deeply about the matter, the fact that he could not reach an answer troubled him.
Perhaps he might have been able to conclusively state his answer before coming to this world, but now, he could not.
The results of his guildmates’ painstaking and intricate labors were these NPCs, who had the ability to think and feel.
Because I’m planning to kill this… this NPC, who’s like a child. I’m planning to kill Peroroncino’s daughter.
Frustration filled Ainz’s heart.
One could also call it a form of guilt.
Ainz’s keen gaze zeroed in on Shalltear’s potential location.
“It’s the only way to break the control of a World-Class Item.”
He had spoken those words to convince himself.
After seeing the looks in Aura and Mare’s eyes, Ainz felt that it was not good to worry them further, and changed the subject.
“Then, work together with them. Keep an eye on the surroundings.”
Ainz pointed to the four huge clumps of meat that were leading the way for them.
They were two meters wide and their bodies were pink. However, these monsters had countless cloudy white eyes. It looked as though the eyes from all manner of corpses had been haphazardly stitched together.
These were undead beings made with the [Create High-Tier Undead] skill, Eyeball Corpses.
Ainz had used his entire day’s worth of that skill’s uses to make these Eyeball Corpses, because they were the nemesis of stealthy beings, whether they used magic or skills to do so.
Their cloudy eyes were not ornamental, but possessed outstanding perception. Even the specialized ranger Aura could not match them. Although their effective combat level was low, their emphasis was on detection ability and not fighting power, so his aim was to have them support Aura for targeting duties.
“Understood! However, will they obey my orders?”
“There will be no problems in that respect. I guarantee it. Also, you should link your minds with magic. That way, you can act as a command center and patrol the area in peace.”
“Okay! Although it would be faster for me to go myself, we don’t know where those guys are. Got it! Then, after Mare uses his stealth-enhancing magic, we’ll take these guys and lay low.”
“That sounds fine. I’ll leave that to you.”
Ainz quietly smiled — though it could not be seen, as his face could not move.
♦ ♦ ♦
The last person to enter the room was Demiurge, who threw himself down on an empty seat. It clearly illustrated his mood, given that he would never act so crudely under normal circumstances.
“Well, is there an explanation for this?”
Demiurge narrowed his eyes as he directed that intense question to Albedo, seated opposite him at the table.
“Why did you agree to this?”
His tone was even, but that was simply a thin veil draped over the surface. Everyone could feel the barbs in his words.
When a typically calm person displayed great emotion, the distance between his usual behavior and the abnormality made that emotion seem even more intense to others. However, this was not quite accurate, because Demiurge was very worked up, and none of his comrades had seen such agitation from him before.
However, in the face of this questioning, filled with hostility — or even killing intent — Albedo remained unmoved.
“This was Ainz-sama’s decision. How can we subordinates oppose—”
The question interdicted Albedo’s reply with the finality of a guillotine’s blade.
“Why? When Ainz sama left for the human city (E-Rantel), you were the one who insisted on having a Guardian follow him. Why did you agree to this now? You should be worried about Ainz-sama’s safety now, as you were then.”
Albedo inclined her head in response, and Demiurge’s face visibly contorted.
“Then, I’ll ask you again! Why did you permit this?!”
His anger seemed to shake the room. This intensity was completely unlike the Demiurge whom they were familiar with.
Cocytus slowly turned his head, looking at the two people staring each other down. There was worry in his eyes.
“...Also, you should have known that Ainz-sama was lying, right?” Demiurge asked, his voice low and angry.
After Albedo nodded again, Cocytus exhaled sharply. Both of them knew that this clear, high-pitched sound was one which Cocytus made when he was confused.
“..Earlier. You. Said. That. Ainz-sama. Told. You. His. Reasons. For. Leaving. Alone. But. Do. You. Not. Find. It. Strange? From. Ainz-sama’s. Point. Of. View. A. Sequential. Attack. Would. Be. Safer. We. Could. Attack. In. Waves. And. Wear. Down. Shalltear’s. HP. And. MP.”
“...You’re right, Cocytus. There is no way Ainz-sama would not be able to think of a strategy that we could easily come up with. In other words, Ainz-sama was deliberately lying, to hide something else.”
“What. Reason. Is. That?”
“I have no idea… which is why I’m asking. Since you did not know the reason, why did you let Ainz-sama go alone?”
“It’s because Ainz-sama now is a completely different person from how he was several days ago.”
Demiurge opened his narrowed eyes slightly to show that he was confused by this, as though asking Albedo to continue her explanation.
“At that time, Ainz-sama did not seem like a man, but instead… how shall I put it… yes, this might sound disrespectful, but at that time, he looked just like a child who was trying to run away.”
“I did not feel that at all. Were you mistaken, perhaps?”
Demiurge shifted his gaze to the [Crystal Monitor] within the room. Its surface displayed the form of his master walking deeper into the forest.
“Really now? I don’t think I would be mistaken about the look on the face of the man I love…”
Albedo was looking at the Crystal Monitor as well, with the look of a lovestruck maiden on her face. However, that expression only angered the already frustrated Demiurge.
“Then, what! What about this expression?”
“Right now, Ainz-sama has a look of great conviction on his face. As a woman — perhaps it is disloyal to think in this way, but when I know that my beloved master intends to see through his conviction to the end, I will not say anything more. Also, Ainz-sama has promised me that he will return to this place once more.”
Once he saw that Albedo was not going to continue, the visibly displeased Demiurge cut loose:
“Naive. Irrational. You’re just making decisions based on your feelings. Ainz-sama is the final Supreme Being who remained here. Once we know his life is in danger, it is our duty to eliminate that danger. Even if we are rebuked for it, even if we should perish by doing so, we should still take action, should we not?”
There was a thumping sound as Demiurge sprang up.
“Where are you going?”
Demiurge’s voice was quite calm as he turned to leave.
“Need you ask? Obviously it is to send my minions—”
Demiurge sensed something running toward him and turned to look. He saw Cocytus, brandishing a divine-class weapon.
“...I see… So the reason you summoned me here and ordered me to this place was for this, was it not, Albedo?”
“Indeed, Demiurge. The 7th Floor is already locked down in the names of myself and Ainz-sama, and we have control of all the vassals. Need I tell you whose orders they will obey?”
“...Foolishness! How will you take responsibility if Ainz-sama perishes? Ainz-sama is the last remaining entity to whom we can pledge our loyalty!”
“Ainz-sama will return.”
“How can you be so sure of that?!”
Demiurge’s eyes went wide, but there were no eyeballs within his eyesockets. Instead, he had gemstones, which lacked pupils or sclera, but which were intricately cut with countless sparkling facets.
“Believe in your master. This is our purpose, as those who were created by them.”
Demiurge’s mouth had been opening and closing all this time, but now he firmly shut it.
This was because he felt — she might be right.
The NPCs of Nazarick were absolutely loyal to the 41 Supreme Beings, but the way in which they expressed their devotion varied from person to person. Thus, it was natural that Demiurge and Albedo might have different opinions on how to show their loyalty.
However, Albedo’s idea of loyalty rocked Demiurge to the core.
Even so, he was still worried, and because the uneasiness in his heart had not vanished, he had given voice to those words.
If Ainz-sama vanishes like the other Supreme Beings, who shall we be loyal to?
We were created to be loyal to them, but once we lose that value, what reason is there for us to exist?
As though to cover up his own emotions, Demiurge forcefully sat himself back on the chair, completely unlike how he usually was.
“If… If anything happens to Ainz-sama, you will resign your post of Guardian Overseer.”
“...Demiurge. You. Dare. Ask. Albedo. To. Resign. The. Position. Of. Guardian. Overseer. Which. The. Supreme. Beings. Gave. Her? This. Is. Treachery!”
Albedo’s response to the astonished Cocytus was a simple smile.
“That will be fine. However, Demiurge, if Ainz-sama returns safely, you will obediently yield to me if a similar situation occurs.”
“Then, Cocytus, what do you think of Ainz-sama’s odds?”
Cocytus calmly informed the two of them of his opinion:
“Three. To. Seven. With. Ainz-sama. Being. Three.”
Demiurge’s shoulders quaked. He could not pretend he had not heard the inauspicious words which Cocytus, the mightiest warrior present, had just spoken. However, Albedo was different. As she heard that pronouncement, she continued smiling, her face brimming with supreme confidence.
“Is that so. Then, let us watch as Ainz-sama turns those odds into a victory.”
♦ ♦ ♦
After parting ways with the two of them, Ainz trod a path toward Shalltear’s location. The reason why he could discern the directions of north, south, east and west and head straight for Shalltear was thanks to his skills.
After passing through the trees, he saw Shalltear. She looked completely different from how she had before, like a doll, and it made Ainz feel sad. At the same time, he was angry at himself, but he was far angrier at the user of that World-Class Item.
He did not curse loudly, but the intensity of those words implied an anger so powerful that even Ainz could not fully suppress it. This was despite being one of the undead, who were resistant to such surges of emotion.
“I decided to spread the name of Ainz Ooal Gown in order to find my friends. That was the method I selected. Thus, I took action in a low-key manner to avoid pointless conflicts. And yet, why did this happen?”
Who were they? Who did they belong to? What did they want? Why had they used a World-Class Item on Shalltear?
“...No matter who they are, once I learn about them from Shalltear… I’ll finish them off for sure.”
Ainz’s unmoving skull was seemingly twisted by the black, bubbling hatred and murderous intent within him.
“You will deeply regret your foolishness. If it is a fight with Ainz Ooal Gown you want, then a fight you shall have.”
After giving voice to the anger in his heart, Ainz’s frustration slowly ebbed away.
The true battle would begin now, and he had to calm down in order to face it.
“I’m such a fool. I know there’s better ways to do this.”
Ainz cracked a self-deprecating grin.
“...Is this guilt? Or is it because I didn’t dare face it… I just wanted to run away.”
Shalltear was the strongest of the Guardians, but she was not that much stronger. If the other Guardians attacked in waves, victory would be assured.
Yet, there was one reason why Ainz had not chosen that method—
—It was because he did not want to see his beloved children killing each other before his eyes.
If she had betrayed Ainz Ooal Gown of her own free will, Ainz would have taken that treachery in stride and destroyed her with everything at his disposal. If that was the NPC’s will, then as the ruler of Nazarick, he was obliged to deal with it sternly.
If she had betrayed him because she had been programmed to do so, he would find the best way to compromise with her.
However, Shalltear’s situation now was different from all those scenarios. She was under mind control, and the one at fault was Ainz, who had not anticipated such a situation. Thus, he was the only one responsible for this.
He wanted to finish it with his own hands.
Ainz removed one of his rings. It was a cash item that allowed for resurrection at hardly any cost. Removing this ring symbolized Ainz’s determination to throw his hat over the fence, because if he could return to life, he would subconsciously relax in his heart.
This was not giving up, but conviction. With that feeling in his heart, Ainz looked to the sky.
“The enemy hasn’t made a move yet. Up till now, the only thing I can sense are the divination spells from Nazarick… am I being watched?”
Normally, Ainz would have many defensive spells layered on himself. The anti-divination countermeasure he used in Carne Village was one of them.
In YGGDRASIL, friendly fire was disabled, so his friends could cast divinations on Ainz as normal. However, things were different in this world. If Albedo and the others wanted to observe Ainz, Ainz would automatically respond with a magical counterattack.
If that happened, the counterattack would clash with Nazarick’s defensive network. If he was not careful, Ainz might be hit by the network’s own counterattack and take unnecessary damage.
This was why Ainz had disabled the offensive spells linked into his countermeasures and only used the one which told him the origin of any divination spells. What he learned from them was that nobody was observing him other than Nazarick.
Ainz tilted his head, unable to make sense of things.
Could it be that Shalltear was actually abandoned here by accident?
“And… I wonder if Albedo saw through my lie? Good grief… Although, don’t you think this feels like a wager, Shalltear?”
Of course, there was no reply from the blank-faced Shalltear.
Ainz looked to Shalltear. He ran a simulated battle through his head, and felt like fleeing.
While he had resolved himself just now, just standing here filled him with incredible mental stress.
Though he was prepared to sacrifice himself — no, it was precisely because he was prepared to die that the remnants of Suzuki Satoru — the weak-spirited human — was afraid.
What came next would be a battle to the death. This was not a fight in a game like YGGDRASIL — this was a true deathmatch.
This was unlike his battles with Nigun and Clementine after he had come to this world, where he had “fought” (more like trampled) people that he vastly overpowered. This time, the outcome was in doubt, and he was starting from incredibly unfavourable conditions.
If he were not undead, and—
“If I were not the leader of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick and the representative of the guild, I might not even be able to clench my fists.”
Ainz chuckled to himself, as though to exorcise all his negative emotions.
The fear of death had vanished, and he was no longer uncertain over the possibility of being defeated.
The proud memories of his glorious past gave Ainz strength.
“I am Ainz Ooal Gown. How could this name ever be defeated?”
He was the owner of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick. He would prove that his title was not for show.
Ainz’s eyes were keen as they studied the defenseless Shalltear.
“...Then… let’s start!”
Ainz shouted as he cast his spell. He carefully selected a spell from his massive repertoire of magic — and activated a 10th-tier spell.
“[Body of Effulgent Beryl]!”
Ainz’s skeletal body glowed green, and then—
—He laughed, his eyes never leaving Shalltear as he cast his spell. He laughed because of this unexpected outcome, and also because he had won a big bet.
“Exactly as I had expected. As long as they don’t consider my actions to be a clear sign of hostility, the NPCs won’t even enter combat status! It’s just like how it was in the game!”
These actions were identical to those of mind-controlled monsters in YGGDRASIL. The fact that the game’s logic could be used here slightly improved the massive disadvantage he faced.
“That being the case, I’m sorry about this, Shalltear, but I’ll have to ask you to stay that way before the battle starts.”
Ainz continued casting various spells.
“—[Fly], [Bless of Magic Caster], [Infinity Wall], [Magic Ward - Holy], [Life Essence], [Greater Full Potential], [Freedom], [False Data - Life], [See Through], [Paranormal Intuition], [Greater Resistance], [Mantle of Chaos], [Indomitability], [Sensor Boost], [Greater Luck], [Magic Boost], [Draconic Power], [Greater Hardening], [Heavenly Aura], [Absorption], [Penetrate Up], [Greater Magic Shield], [Mana Essence], [Triplet Maximize Magic Explode Mine], [Triplet Magic Greater Magic Seal], [Triplet Maximize Boosted Magic Arrow]—”
This seemingly endless stream of spells surrounded Ainz’s body.
“Then, here I come!”
Those words, spoken after he had finished his preparations, were directed at Shalltear and himself.
The first thing Ainz did was to use one of the ultimate moves of magic, those spells which surpassed the 10th tier of magic.
These spells were known as super-tier magic—
♦ ♦ ♦
From the perspective of the tiers of magic, spells of this level could be considered spells, and not spells at the same time. To begin with, they did not consume MP, but instead they could only be used a limited number of times per day.
When one first learned them, they could only be used once per day. Every 10 levels after level 70, however, one could use them an additional time per day.
One could learn a single super-tier spell per level.
Rather than call them magic, they might be better described as skills.
In other words, the average player could only use four super-tier spells per day at level 100. One might ask at this point — why not consecutively cast super-tier spells to defeat Shalltear? Indeed, the destructive power of super-tier magic was unrivalled, dwarfing even that of 10th-tier spells. If one could cast super-tier spells one after the other, even the damage alone would only be survivable by a vanishingly small fraction of level 100 players. Shalltear was not among that number, so that would definitely defeat her.
However, he could not do that.
The reason was because super-tier magic could not be consecutively cast.
To begin with, each super-tier spell needed a certain amount of casting time. Cash items could remove that casting time, but another penalty prevented the repeated casting of super-tier spells.
Once any member of a team cast a super-tier spell, every member would be penalized by being unable to cast such spells for a certain period of time — in other words, a cooldown period.
This restriction was put in place to prevent guild wars from being decided by who could vomit out the most super-tier spells. In addition, this cooldown period could not be eliminated by any skill or cash item.
Thus, when PVPing, the party which cast a super-tier spell first was often considered an idiot.
After all, defeat was likely when one expended one’s trump card without properly understanding one’s foe. The fact was that there were very few PVP battles where the victors were the first to cast super-tier spells.
♦ ♦ ♦
Yet, Ainz’s first move was to cast such a spell.
There was no frustration or confusion on his face. A calm, steady light glowed within his eye sockets.
A gigantic dome-shaped magic circle appeared around Ainz, extending about 10 meters away from him.
The magic circle shone a brilliant white, and translucent diagrams of characters and symbols appeared. These images changed ceaselessly, with kaleidoscopic speed, differing from second to second.
Ainz could have used a cash item to instantly cast the super-tier spell, but he did not do so. Instead, his eyes moved from Shalltear to his surroundings.
“No ambushers…? Or are they watching from afar? This should be the best time to attack, right?”
Magic casters who were preparing a super-tier spell suffered from lowered defenses. In addition, the super-tier spell would self-terminate if the caster took a certain amount of damage.
Thus, the basics of casting super-tier spells included protecting the caster with several friends. In other words, now was the best time to attack Ainz, who was alone.
However, there was no change in his surroundings.
“Was I being paranoid?”
Ainz laughed, and then shrugged.
It was just a hunch, but Ainz was quite sure that Shalltear had not been staked out as bait, but simply abandoned here.
“What is all this, anyway? Ah, I don’t have the eyes of god, so I can’t see through everything. If I did, perhaps things might not have ended up like this.”
Ainz rotated his shoulders in an exaggerated way as he muttered to himself.
He could not move around freely while casting a super-tier spell. All he could do was stand there like a dummy and wait for time to pass.
In order to effectively make use of his time, Ainz pulled out a thin strip of curved metal from his pocket dimension. When he placed it on his wrist, the strip curled and fastened itself to him. There was a row of characters on the metal strip, which changed as every second passed.
Needless to say, it was a watch.
Ainz placed his fingertip on the metal strip, touching the displayed characters.
“The timer’s set, Momonga-oniichan!”
An incredibly fake, cutesy and high-pitched girl’s voice echoed through the surroundings, and it was hard to resist the urge to knit his brows.
“...Why can’t I turn off the voice on this watch…”
Ainz grumbled, but he did not actually mean it. He could easily mute it with the use of creator tools, but Ainz had not done so.
The person who had lent her voice to this watch was Bukubukuchagama, the guild member who had made Aura and Mare.
If he turned off her voice, it would be the same as an ordinary watch.
The reason why such a mainstream voice actress like herself would affect such a vexing tone was clearly because she wanted to tease Ainz.
Shalltear Bloodfallen’s creator Peroroncino was her brother. He got along very well with Ainz. Thus, Bukubukuchagama treated Ainz as her brother’s friend, resulting in this.
However, it might not have been a prank.
She frequently voiced loli characters in eroges, and the voices of those characters sounded like that strange voice from just now. Therefore, she might have just been using her working voice.
When Peroroncino realised his sister was voice-acting for a H-game he wanted to buy, his interest in it plummeted. Ainz smiled bitterly as he recalled his comrade’s complaining.
“...Well, it’s true, if I heard Bukubukuchagama’s voice while surfing the net, I’d be shocked too.”
As Ainz expressed his thoughts to his absent friend, he continued pulling out several wooden sticks from his pocket dimension. They were about 15 centimeters long and flattened out, and each of them was inscribed with characters which read, [Tsukiyomi], [Hou Yi’s Bow], [Earth Recover], [Iron Fist of the Schoolmarm] and so on.
There were several slots for scrolls on his belt. He quietly inserted the sticks into these slots, memorizing their position as he did so.
These preparations took time, and when they were complete, the blue light of the magic circle intensified, indicating that the super-tier spell was ready to be cast.
“Then, let’s go.”
Having steeled his heart, a look of conviction filled Ainz’s eyes.
“Super-tier spell - [Fallen Down]!”
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